Grammar Snobs R Us

Posted 23 May, 2009 by DLWhite in Writers Write 0 Comments

I got up early to write, and saw that Jane over at Dear Author had already been busy this morning on the Twitter (or more likely last night) so I headed over to her site to see what new things lay in store for me. I do enjoy her reviews, specifically on really-bad-but-still-managed-to-get-published pieces. They give me hope.

Anyhow, Jane’s latest poll is about grammar, and how good you are at it. I’ll admit I am more of a grammar snob than I should be. I love words, correctly used and phrased and spelled. I love sentences that slide off of the tongue, that are well punctuated. I love dialogue that is natural without being ‘slang-y’ or making the story sound like it came from a diary entry and not a narrative. However, I do realize that I have faults, and I have many of them. I make LOTS of mistakes. Rarely spelling, mostly typos– as in I know how to spell but my fingers don’t know how to type. I depend far too much on google spellcheck and if I don’t know how to spell something, I type it into a google search, and it pops back with ‘did you mean this, you moron?’

Personally, I feel like I rarely make grammar errors– but maybe after taking this quiz, I will pick up an AP stylebook and investigate myself and then take back my words. Anyhow, Jane posted the poll, and it went a little something like this:

Are You a Grammar Goddess?

Do you recognize the two grammar errors in the following two sentences:

Here’s what’s on Google’s home page on May 16, 2009:

Over 28,000 children drew doodles for our homepage.

Vote for the one that will appear here!

Anyone who has read this blog has already figured out that we could use a few grammar lessons. I like to think I know my grammar but am just too busy to review all of my posts to ensure correctness. I am careful about using since v. because (since requiring a time related clause to follow). I refuse to use the word irregardless. (It’s a double negative). In reviewing the sentences above, though, I didn’t have a clue about what was “wrong” with them. The answer is here.

The answer is surprising, and something I wouldn’t see if someone didn’t point it out. The sentences read awkwardly to me, but for the life of me, I couldn’t point out what was grammatically incorrect about them.

So the answer, as revealed by Penelope Trunk (Brazen Careerist) is that one should use ‘more than’ instead of over, and ‘which’ instead of ‘that’. But… the right words don’t change the sentence at all, so who cares? She goes further to say that correct use of grammar only proves that a person knows how to use grammar correctly. It doesn’t make a person a better writer, it’s not even the foundation of a good story. When’s the last time you read a book and said, “wow, that story was gripping, and exciting, and grammatically correct”?

Probably never. And yet, I’ve been a grammar snob. I’ve stated many times that I won’t read something if it’s not well written. After all I am a writer and I have my own things to write and I simply do not have time for authors who don’t know grammar.  Please hold, while I roll my eyes at my own self.

I think what I mean to say is this: If I’m writing for me, to me, and never put it anywhere for anyone to read it, grammar is inconsequential– I only use correct grammar and spelling to stop my eye from twitching when I see it.  The minute that I post it on my blog or archive or the Women Writers board, it becomes a representative– of me, of the fandom (if it’s fanfiction), of writers. I want what I write to be read easily, and often. I want it to shine in the best light possible. I want people to be able to fall in love with the characters, with the rise and fall of the story, with the plot theme, with the climax, and look forward to the great ending and finish it and go, “aww, I didn’t want it to end!”

And so, here’s to the death of the Grammar Snob– to a certain extent. I’ll read and ignore for the most part, until I have to stumble over words and meaning so much that I can’t get lost in the story– if I can’t get lost, it ain’ t gettin’ read.

And now, I guess I will pull out my WIP (Work in Progress) and get to work. I haven’t written in about two weeks and I am starting to get the shakes.

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